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PROPOSED STATE OF ILLINOIS CO-OPERATIVE 
PLAN FOR PRISON MANAGEMENT 



John L. Whitman 



Under a co-operative plan for prison management, the Division 
of Prisons in The Department of Public Welfare of the State of 
Illinois, proposes to adopt methods embracing all the practical ideas 
advanced in the operation of the so-called honor and self-government 
systems and adding to them important features that have to do with 
the actual building of character, the promoting of a feeling of respect 
for the law and the preparation of convicts while in confinement so 
that with a correct viewpoint of life, and in the proper attitude of 
mind, they can enter society and assume the duties and responsibilities 
of citizenship. 

The management of a penal system is just as much a business 
proposition as is the business that supplies the needs or necessities of 
life to its patrons, whether they be stockholders or not. In fact, the 
management of the prisons has an effect upon the whole people. The 
prisons are either manufacturing good citizens out of raw or waste 
material, or they are without a proper knowledge of how to use the 
material at hand, turning out a product that has not only been made 
less valuable by the handling, but has been converted into a real 
menace. Consequently, it is of the greatest importance that a plan of 
organization be adopted that will bring about the best results obtain- 
able to all concerned. This can only be done after a thorough study 
has been made and an intelligent analysis of the material necessary 
to be used has been completed. Then, inasmuch as, in this business 
the material to be handled is humanity and the patrons to whom the 
products of the business must be furnished is also humanity, the co- 
operative plan of conducting the business seems to be the most com- 
prehensive, — and when the condition of the material to work with is 
considered, seems to be more practical than the system that puts the 
unfinished products or the unprepared man without proper training 
or development upon his honor, or to be a part of a so-called self- 
government system. 

How the individuals who are brought under the ban of the law 
can be appealed to by the administration of the law, is a question that 
nowadays seems to attract the attention of all good citizens and 
demands the closest attention and study of the administrators of the 



PRISON MANAGEMENT 379 

law. The strictly punitive method that provides but one treatment 
for all alike and does not recognize or arrange for the classification of 
individuals, has proven to be a failure. Other methods have been 
carelessly thought out, hastily approved by some, then put into opera- 
tion, with only partial success. Perhaps because of a lack of under- 
standing on the part of prison officials of the conditions apt to be 
created by some classes convicted of crime. In fact, absolute failures 
have been made, which have increased the difficulties to be overcome 
in formulating or adopting plans or policies that would carry out the 
expressed intention of the law, which says in part that such methods 
shall be adopted "as will prevent them from returning to criminal 
courses, best secure their self-support and accomplish their reforma- 
tion." 

To do this, there must be an exhaustive, careful and intelligent 
study made of each individual, so that all will be understood, their 
weaknesses recognized and the treatment prescribed that will meet 
their individual needs, whether it be a treatment for their physical 
or mental health, or to overcome a lack of proper training, the effect 
of bad environment, insufficient education, habits of idleness, or any 
of the many other things that tend to contribute toward delinquency 
and crime. 

After the individual needs have been recognized and treatment 
prescribed, the prison management should be organized under a plan 
that would insure the careful attention of all officials in the admin- 
istration of the prescribed treatment. It is of the greatest importance 
to the state that the intention of the law, as quoted above, be carried 
out, which really means that the penal system is expected to enter 
into the business of making mdn out of broken, twisted lives. It is a 
business, which, if successfully carried on in a practical way under 
a proper plan will bring the best sort of returns to the state by way 
of a better citizenship. 

Those that succeed in other lines of endeavor, in business or a 
profession, do so only after they have made a thorough study of their 
business or profession and have become proficient in it. Those in 
business deal with commodities ; — those in charge of the management 
of our penal institutions, deal with humanity. If it is necessary to 
study commodities in order to be successful in handling them in a 
business way, how much more necessary is it in handling humanity 
to study and understand all of the various characters and moods they 
are apt to be in at different times, in order to be successful in bringing 
about the best results. It has only been during recent years that any 



380 JOHN L. WHITMAN 

such study has been made in the matter of handling the so-called 
criminal classes in our penal institutions. Practically no well defined 
method or plan has been adopted that would give proper consideration 
to the proper classification and treatment of prisoners in our penal 
institutions. Whatever method or plan may be adopted, if good results 
are obtained, must insure the co-operation of all concerned. 

Our prisons are public institutions ; the whole people are or should 
be interested, for the reason that results whether good or bad have a 
direct effect upon them. A co-operative plan that enlists the hearty 
co-operation of all interested, over the prisoners themselves, comes 
nearer being an ideal plan than any that has yet been put into opera- 
tion or suggested. 

The commercial business conducted on the co-operative plan has 
what every one declares to be a very commendable object, and, as the 
business grows and is successful, all the investors, large or small, as 
well as the patrons realize upon the profits accrued. Not only in a 
financial way, but inasmuch as the commodity manufactured or handled 
is apt to be one that is a necessity to the patron, in order to become 
a full beneficiary, he makes himself at least a small stockholder and 
has a voice in establishing the policies of the business and gives 
information to it that will enable the officers of it to prepare for and 
supply that which most effectually and economically meets his needs, 
which, in a measure at least, are indential with the needs of other 
patrons. 

While this plan gives opportunity for working up a highly satis- 
factory and profitable business to all large or small investors and 
provides even for the small investors the chance to be heard and his 
especial needs to be considered, yet, the manner in which his needs and 
the needs of all of the others may be supplied is determined by those 
crtesen to adopt the policies and direct how they shall be carried out. 
This is done by a board of directors and officers of the business who 
may and should be large stockholders; but they are chosen because 
of their experience and special fitness for their duties. They are held 
strictly to account and are responsible to the stockholders for the good 
conduct of the affairs of the business. Consequently, while the co- 
operative plan provides for the patrons or small stockholders to have 
a voice in the business, the organization of the business is such that 
control is held by those who must consider the interests of all con- 
cerned and protect the fundamental policies of the business. 

The organization of a co-operative plan for prison management 
as compared with the plan for the commercial business would be that 



PRISON MANAGEMENT 381 

the state (which means all of the people), is the initial investor, or- 
ganizer, principal stockholder, and president of the board of directors, 
which in this case would be The Department of Public Welfare. This 
department, made up as it is of men, who, because of their years of 
experience have become convinced of the possibility of manufacturing 
out of otherwise waste material a really good citizenship for the state, 
are in reality heavy stockholders in this business of prison manage- 
ment for the public welfare. The prison officials or employes directed 
and trained in such a line of thought are attracted and convinced that 
a business organized on a co-operalive plan for such a purpose is not 
only feasible, but offers to the investor a career for future usefulness 
and they soon become stockholders and are an essential part of the 
organization. One class of patrons of this business are the prisoners. 
They represent the element most in need of the benefits of the or- 
ganization and through whom benefits come to the stockholders, large 
and small (the whole people). 

It is for the purpose of supplying needs to this element that the 
business of prison management was organized. Consequently, every 
endeavor should be made by the officers and employes to enlist the 
prisoners as subscribers for stock in the business, thereby gaining their 
co-operation. Once they become actually convinced that the business 
furnishes products that they are in need of and can benefit by, they 
see the advantage of being stockholders and become such. Then, they 
are interested in the business as a patron stockholder is in a com- 
mercial business, but, in reality have more to gain in a substantial 
way. They are under this plan co-operative partners in the business 
and in as practical a way as the patron stockholder who has a voice 
in a commercial business, they reveal their weakness and the supplies 
needed to gain strength and stability, which are all considered; but 
while those supplies are being furnished, or, in other words, while they 
are undergoing treatment for the weakness displayed, they are under 
the control of the governing body of the business whose wisdom dic- 
tates just what supplies and what treatment will most effectually pro- 
duce the desired results. 

The patron stockholder in a commercial business buys the goods 
he needs a little cheaper and gets a chance to clip a coupon now and 
then ; but the prisoner stockholder gets his needs supplied for his co- 
operation in the business of prison management and the chances for a 
future useful career made possible. He has within his grasp because 
of his connection with the business a citizenship, which having earned 
has also learned how to appreciate and protect by proper living. In 



382 



JOHN L. WHITMAN 



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PRISON MANAGEMENT 383 

the meantime (this being a typical case), the state has realized upon 
its investment in the business of prison management. Not only that 
there have been returns, so far as a better citize iship is concerned, but 
the chances are, in a financial way. 

One of the big problems presented to prison management to be 
solved is the industrial feature. Under such a co-operative plan as 
described here, the industrial feature of a prison presents less of a 
problem. How this works out is a subject for separate discussion. 
Under a co-operative plan, the following outline of a scheme for 
classification of prisoners fits in: 

First. Proper treatment of the mentally and physically 
sick. 

Second. Classification according to needs and abilities of the 
individual inmates. 

Third. A progressive merit system working toward free- 
dom. 

This progressive merit system being a thing that is entirely visible 
to prisoners, serves to maintain discipline and promote industry, as well 
as fit them for useful careers in after life, and is practically carrying 
out the expressed intention of the new law, as quoted above, as well 
as the old law, which recognized the fact that a great majority of 
prisoners ultimately return to society, which makes it necessary to re- 
gard their confinement as a period of training for the duties and obliga- 
tions of citizenship, rather than as a period of punishment for past 
failures. 

Modern thought concludes that the causes of crime are exceed- 
ingly complex and include physical and mental health, training, en- 
vironment, habits and education. All prisoners should be thoroughly 
examined upon being committed and a determination reached in the 
individual cases, as near as may be, of the underlying causes, and when 
that is done a treatment determined upon — the treatment that would 
most effectually meet the needs. 

In addition to treatment for physical and mental ills, it is im- 
portant that proper training be given and habits of industry taught. 
In fact, from the date of commitment, until they have demonstrated 
their fitness to be paroled, they should be under instruction and train- 
ing with the hope of fitting them for the proper sort of citizenship 
when they will realize their responsibility to society. In this progres- 
sive merit system, harsh punishment is no part of the treatment. 

After the mentally deficient ones have been segregated and the 
physically ill considered, then all others are assigned to a group or 



384 JOHN L. WHITMAN 

class, being closely observed as to their inclinations and are under 
rather rigid discipline or restraint ; at any rate, are given no responsi- 
bility. It is possible for them to work out of this ciass into a second 
class in a short time where they are given some responsibility and 
where they begin to show their weakness; perhaps because of bad 
conduct or lack of application to industry, they slip back into the first 
class. Then comes the opportunity for real educational work. We 
know them then and know what to do to help them get permanently 
fixed in class two, where real progress begins. It is at this time they 
also begin to earn consideration for parole and realize fully that what- 
ever consideration they get is due to merit only. They begin also to 
understand something about the length of time it will take them to un- 
dergo the treatment necessary to fit themselves for parole and decent 
citizenship. Then gradually the prison restraint is removed and they 
are placed more and more upon their own responsibility. They have, 
up until this time, been under the restraint of prison walls and more or 
less reliant upon prison rules. However, they have graduated out of 
cells into small dormitories and have thus far shown their ability 
to adapt themselves to a progressive merit system. Now the authori- 
ties can well afford to test them as to their ability to govern them- 
selves and their reliability when placed upon their own responsibility, 
living as villagers with prison walls removed, the test being that they. 
in small groups living in cottages, can demonstrate their ability to 
adapt themselves to community life. 

After this test, parole is in sight and they are sent to distant parts 
of the penal farm to work and live, with reasonable assurance that they 
will keep inviolate the trust imposed in them ; they having been taught 
how to accommodate themselves to social rules and been placed in the 
right attitude of mind.